Thailand: NGO law must be revised or withdrawn

by | Mar 24, 2022 | News

The ICJ urges Thailand’s government to withdraw or substantially revise the Draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E. … because its provisions do not comply with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.

Thailand’s government should take back or substantially revise the Draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E. … (‘Draft Act’) because it does not comply with Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urged today in a letter to Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Public consultation regarding the Draft Act is set to end on 25 March 2022. ICJ pointed out in its letter that the Draft Act contains provisions that would have a deeply damaging impact on those joining together to advocate for human rights in the country, in violation of the right to freedom of association, expression, peaceful assembly, non-discrimination, the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to an effective remedy, as well as counter-terrorism financing standards such as international standards on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT).

The key concerns include:

  • Imprecise and overbroad restrictions against not-for-profit organizations (NPOs);
  • Discrimination and stigma against NPOs that receive foreign funding;
  • Unnecessary, disproportionate and onerous financial and reporting obligations;
  • Disproportionate penalties, including the closure of the association, substantial fines, and criminal prosecution of NPOs’ representative; and
  • Inadequate appeal process.

Background

On 23 February 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved in principle the Office of the Council of State’s proposal to enact a law that aims to provide oversight on NPOs’ operations.

The Draft Act was first introduced to the public in March 2021. The first public consultation was also carried out by the Office of the Council of State between 12 to 31 March 2021 – an inappropriately short period of time.

On 25 May 2021, Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) proposed the so-called additional principles to the Draft Act maintaining that they were needed to address Thailand’s failure to comply with its obligations under international standards on AML/CFT.

On 29 June 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved the so-called additional principles to the Draft NPO Act based on the proposal made by AMLO.

On 4 January 2022, despite strenuous opposition by civil society groups, the Cabinet approved the Draft Act that was revised by the Office of the Council of State. The bill also incorporated several of the so-called counter-terrorist financing measures as suggested by AMLO.

After the public consultation, the draft law will then be resubmitted to the Cabinet, then presented to the Parliament.

Download the letter in English and Thai.

Further reading:

Thailand: repressive draft law on the operation of not-for-profit organizations must be revised or scrapped

Thailand: NGO law would strike ‘severe blow’ to human rights

Proposed Thailand Law Threatens Civil Society Organizations Combating Human Trafficking

Thailand: stop using counter-terrorism financing measures to reduce civil society space

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